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Full-time for foodbank that opened two hours a week before crisis

Before the coronavirus crisis the foodbank at St Thomas Church in Swansea opened for two hours on a Tuesday where it would be lifeline for as many as 15 families on a busy week

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But since mid-March volunteers have been keeping the doors open Monday to Friday and are responding to emergency calls in the evenings and at weekends.

Over 230 households have been supported with food parcels supplemented with fresh produce donated by local stores and supermarkets.

And since the schools shut the Church, working with schools in the Cefn Hengoed Cluster and Swansea Council, has also helped to coordinate, pack and deliver more than 6,000 food bags to parents and carers who qualify for free school meals.

To maintain safe social distancing there are eight volunteers within the church and two more who collect and deliver stock.

They are led by parish Vicar Reverend Steve Bunting.

Looking back on the last few months he said: "It's been a monumental task but we knew straight away it was going to be something we would need to do."

Reverend Bunting said it had been none-stop ever since.

The Cefn Hengoed Cluster was the first in Swansea to switch from daily 'Grab & Go' bags for pupils offered free school meals to weekly food parcels delivered directly to each home ensuring a take-up rate of almost 100%.

And while some families have now opted for direct payments since the option was introduced more than 300 have decided to keep with the deliveries.

Reverend Bunting said wider demand in the community had also increased.

"Temporary staff have been laid off, there are people furloughed earning less and families whose children are now home all day are seeing additional financial pressures on them," he said.

"There are also those who slip between the nets and we have been asked to support them."

Reverend Bunting said the foodbank, which is part of the Trussell Trust's network of foodbanks in Swansea, had been working closely with different partners and agencies including Barnardo's to support young care leavers.

He said the response from the food bank would not have been possible without the volunteers, and donations from individuals and businesses, including supermarkets and firms that had helped with transport.

"One thing that has been amazing is to see the wonderful people of the Eastside really come out to support us with social distance street bingo, raffles and giveaways," added Rev Bunting.

"We would also like to thank the Austin Bailey Foundation, Admiral Insurance, Wales Coronavirus Resilience Fund and our local councillors for all their support. 

Cllr Clive Lloyd, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health Services, who is the councillor for St Thomas, said: "There has been an amazing response to the crisis in communities across Swansea but none more so than in St Thomas.

"I cannot speak highly enough of the time and effort put in by all involved in the food bank and I know this lifeline is appreciated by our community."

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